After losing both warm-up games against India A and Delhi, England finally managed to register a win and defend the target they set for the opposition. Having allowed the tourists to rack up 325-4, which was seen in some quarters as a par score for a flat pitch, India could only muster 316-9 from their fifty overs and succumbed to a nine-run defeat. James Tredwell took career best figures of 4-44 for England and Jade Dernbach managed to see England home by conceding only nine from a final over from which India’s tail required an unlikely 18. The tourists will take a lot of confidence from this performance, as will coach Ashley Giles who presided over a win in his first full international in charge of the one-day sides.
Key to the England innings was the opening partnership between Alastair Cook (75 from 83) and Ian Bell (85 from 96). Together they put on 158, and even though Bell should be disappointed with his decision not to dive when he was about to be run-out, England managed to reach a decent score after both fell. Several other batsmen seemed to be in decent touch; Kevin Pietersen returned to the one-day side with a contribution of 44 from 45, and Eoin Morgan reached 41 from 38. A late cameo from Samit Patel (44 from 20) was, with hindsight, invaluable. The only question mark was over Joe Root – scheduled to bat at 4, he was pushed down the order on successive occasions. It was arguably the right decision when looking at the runs scored by those promoted above him, but it was still an unusual move from England.
This is not a full-strength England side, but based on this performance the deputies have proven that they are able replacements. Tredwell’s performance, in particular, meant that there were no lingering thoughts of Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar, and Root also bowled well in his nine overs even if he did not pick up a wicket. The batting remains strong despite the absence of Jonathan Trott, and there is no one under pressure for their place going into the second contest, a day-nighter in Kochi on Tuesday. Ahead of the series, Cook called on those fringe players being given an opportunity to make their mark, and he will have been pleased with the response he got.
Before Christmas, in what could be seen as the first ‘half’ of a two-part tour, England had to come from behind in both the Test and T20 series. Now they find themselves 1-0 up, and a second successive win would put a significant amount of pressure on an already under-fire captain in MS Dhoni. That said, India were in this game until the last few overs, and with three players passing fifty, there were signs that a batting line up lacking in confidence is still capable of amassing an imposing score at some point in the near future. Dernbach’s removal of Dhoni when he was looking dangerous on 32 from 25 balls was a key point in the chase, his four sixes having given India’s innings renewed impetus. It was a thrilling contest which could have gone either way, and more fireworks can be expected when the two sides face off again next week.
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BIOGRAPHY: Marcus Rashford